Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 3, 2013

SMITH: What will new year bring Ind. residents?

GOP-controlled Legislature won’t run riot

By Scott Smith
Tribune columnist

— Freed from alignment of the planets for another 25,000 years, as well as elections for the next year, 2013 has at least the chance to start out on a bright note.

So why not make a few predictions or delusional wishes, to go along with the useless but inevitable New Year’s resolutions we all get roped into?

Let’s start out with the newly elected Indiana Legislature, packed wall-to-wall with freshman Republicans and leavened with a few dispirited Democrats.

Taking defeated Democrat John Gregg’s warning that he was “all that stood between Hoosiers and tea party rule” as more or less fact, we see the potential for all sorts of radical legislation passing both houses and receiving a signature from the newly elected Mike Pence.

But a reading of Pence’s “Roadmap for Indiana,” and all of its vanilla policy proposals, makes me think Pence largely will seek to guard the strategic advances made by his aggressive predecessor.

Perhaps that’s not an amazing prediction, but I think the Republican-dominated Legislature, under Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Pro Tem David Long, will conduct itself in a business-like fashion, and that Pence will stand for GOP orthodoxy.

Think about what Mitch Daniels accomplished. He put the most unpredictable burden on taxpayers — local government spending — under strict control, by capping property taxes, shifting school funding to the state, ending state subsidies for local government spending and at least attempting to pass the Kernan-Shepard reforms.

I think the new Legislature will strengthen and deepen those advances, and will limit their social engineering impulses to measures which further the aim of the eventual privatization of public schools.

The gay marriage amendment, which is increasingly being seen by the public as backwards and mean-spirited, will not pass.

Next, as only Nixon could go to China, only the most conservative of legislatures will be able to reform the Indiana criminal code.

Two sections of the law are ripe for reform: the way Indiana treats theft, and the plethora of mandatory felony enhancements. The problem is that since the 1970s, Indiana’s incarceration rate has quadrupled, even as crime rates have dropped.

Spending $600 million a year to keep 28,000 people in prison, when more than 60 percent of those imprisoned will be there for two years or less, begins to gnaw at the soul of conservative deficit hawks. When they consider the wisdom of a law which punishes minor possession of marijuana as a felony due to a similar past conviction, we might begin to see some movement.

My third prediction brings us back to Kokomo, where Mayor Greg Goodnight, emboldened by outside recognition of his quality-of-life initiatives, will hammer in a golden spike to connect the Nickel Plate and the Industrial Heritage trails. Noting the mayor’s reputation for frugality, I also predict that golden spike will be a figurative golden spike.

I also predict residents will see curbside recycling return, and the optimism taking hold in Kokomo will bear fruit in the success of fundraising efforts for the downtown YMCA project. In short, I predict 2013 will be a great year for Kokomo.

The Cincinnati Reds will win the World Series, and Indiana University football will continue its irrelevance. I could go on and on with these predictions, but instead I will end by wishing all of our readers a very Happy New Year!

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.